A CITY WITHIN A CITY
Statler proposed the hotel as a “city within a city”, opting to construct a multi-purpose hotel and office building to ensure a dependable flow of revenue. This hotel’s success guaranteed the survival of the Statler organization through the Great Depression, when roughly 80% of the nation’s hotels were faced with bankruptcy. The hotel was originally built with 1,300 rooms – compared to its 1,060 rooms today, all with a private bath and a plumbing system designed by Statler himself. It was heralded as more economical, advanced and efficient than any other hotel of its time. When the hotel opened, rooms were priced between $3.50 and $5.00.
A HOTEL FOR THE TRAVELING BUSINESSMAN
Statler envisioned a hotel that would serve both the middle class and the new class of travelling businessmen, both of whom had recently gained freedom with the popularity of the automobile. The fourth floor had 42 unique “Salesman Singles” or “Sampler Rooms,” designed specifically for travelling salesmen. Each room had a bed that folded invisibly into the wall, and was wainscoted with special boards that converted into tables for display purposes. According to Statler, a business traveler could call customers for an appointment, show them samples, take them to an excellent dinner, send in rush orders to the company, check in with his family, and conclude his business without ever having to leave the hotel.
RADIOS IN EVERY ROOM
Statler incorporated other innovations into his hotel including a radio in every room. The free feature grew so popular that he invested over one million dollars to have radios installed in all guestrooms in his 21-hotel empire. Boston radio station WBZ even broadcasted from the hotel’s penthouse.
In addition to radios, there were many other inventive features added to ensure guests’ comfort. An ice water dispenser was made available and each room had a headboard with reading lamp, private bath, private closet and free morning newspaper delivery. A “servidor” panel was put in all doors, allowing the valet to deliver laundry without disturbing guests, as well as in-room telephone, and an occupancy indicator – which later became the Do Not Disturb sign. Guests also enjoyed the addition of a writing desk stocked with stationery and writing utensils, full-length mirror, sewing kit, and a catalogue of the books available for borrowing from the hotel’s library. On each floor there was an attendant who handled inquiries, mail, telegrams, key issuance, and other concierge-type requests.
And yet, Statler envisioned more innovations for his hotel. On the 14th floor was a renowned hospital complete with an operating room and a Nose and Throat Department. The Barber Shop and Shoeshine on the basement level was the largest in New England built to accommodate the heavy population of salesmen that frequented the hotel. The 30-chair barber shop boasted the most advanced equipment in the industry, including special facilities to sterilize each brush.
BACK BAY’S MOST FASHIONABLE HOTEL
Aside from its technological innovations, the hotel had a reputation as one of Back Bay’s most fashionable hotels. Boston Park Plaza was one of Boston’s most elegant destinations for cuisine, dancing, and big-name entertainment in the Terrace Room.
By 1950, The Statler Terrace Room was one of the leading restaurants in Boston. Sammy Eisen’s Orchestra was broadcast live, and the menu featured cherrystones, crab-flake cocktail, and hot or cold clam broth. Entrees included poached salmon with egg and chive sauce, lobster Newburg, and fried Cape scallops. Dessert featured twenty ice cream dishes alone along with Indian pudding and deep dish strawberry pie.
Statler wanted each of his hotel’s lobbies to feel like a museum, exposing travelers to excellence in art. The lobby in The Boston Statler was Spanish Renaissance style, consisting of coffered ceilings covered with paint and gold leaf, and flooring constructed of Terrazzo. Painted Talavera tiles on the staircase were imported from Seville, while columns of travertine stone came from volcanic formations at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. The walls were paneled in rich, dark American walnut, which complemented the original artwork and period antiques that filled the lobby.
The Mezzanine has remained relatively unchanged through the years, with the exception of the marble, which has been re-laid using some of the original marble from the Main Dining Room. The Mezzanine was decorated with original artwork, furniture and decorative pieces designed to echo the grandeur of the chandeliers hanging at eye level over the Main Lobby.
On the left side of the Mezzanine is the hotel’s crown jewel, the Grand Ballroom. The Palace of Versailles-styled room originally showcased a bold and beautiful color scheme of black, turquoise and gold. It was designed with a parquet floor, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, a domed ceiling – originally painted to complement the royal-style boxed seats and Griffin style ornamentation, and imported velvet draperies. At the other end of the room hangs an 18th century museum quality Flemish tapestry, lit from below with original torchieres. The sconces around the room are original, and designed in 1926 by local craftsmen to highlight this room.
THE MEETING ROOMS
The Hancock boardroom, one of the hotel’s most popular meeting spaces, once housed an extensive library of over 3,000 books. Guests were allowed to borrow books during their stay, and would either bring them back to their room, or stay and enjoy the leather armchairs and roaring fires lit on chilly evenings. Furthermore, the librarian was well-versed in the service of cognac and port.
Today’s Arlington, Berkeley, and Clarendon rooms were once three private dining rooms beautifully decorated in a Chinese Chippendale style. The wallpaper was hand-painted and murals by local artists encircled each room. At the end of this hallway, the Georgian Room was oak-paneled, and covered with the original ornamental plastering that once covered all of the walls.
A $100 MILLION TRANSFORMATION
In 2016, a $100 million renovation project designed by Parker Torres Design Inc. updated the hotel’s original décor and finishes, evoking a modern, international vibe. All 1,060 guestrooms, lobby, meeting and event spaces, and dining outlets were renovated to complement the hotel’s iconic architectural elements. The new lobby boasts a sophisticated gray and white color palette, dramatic floor-to-ceiling columns encased in ceramic, new flooring, modern chandeliers, and sleek guest check-in stations designed to create a more open and lively space.
At the center of its lobby is Off The Common, offering a sophisticated, contemporary setting to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, light bites and hand-crafted cocktails. The Library is an ideal shared workspace and reading area, and serves as an inviting place to enjoy a cocktail with friends. New guestrooms and suites boast a chic palate of charcoal, caramel and camel tones that complement all-new stone-topped wooden cabinetry, custom upholstered headboards, and warmly-hued carpeting. As a nod to the hotel’s iconic design details, each room’s crown molding has been fully refinished in order to preserve signature elements that pair with the hotel’s new sophisticated, minimalist look.
Most recently, the hotel added Avenue 34, a chic event space with an urban industrial feeling. Offering more than 7,000 square feet of space, Avenue 34 features exposed beams and ductwork, tasteful industrial finishes and urban inspired artwork. Large floor-to-ceiling windows bring the cityscape into the experience and fill the space with natural light.
In addition to renovations, the project pairs top-notch hospitality, world-class dining and high-end fitness amenities with the modern comforts and conveniences that today’s travelers have come to expect, all the while offering a uniquely Boston feel. New amenities include STRIP by Strega, a 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Lynx Fitness Club, Starbucks and an on-site FedEx Business Center, as well as a 3,000-plus square foot Leica Camera featuring a store and gallery within the hotel lobby. E.M. Statler’s vision of a “city within a city” is alive and well today at Boston Park Plaza.